I'll never buy a new car while I live in Baltimore

April 13, 1994|By Ruth Fried

PEOPLE in the city complain constantly about high auto insurance rates.

Well, I'm a city dweller, and frankly, I don't blame the insurers.

In late 1986, I bought my first new car, a 1987 Nova.

It wasn't what the auto commercials would use sexy young models to sell, but it was brand new, and it had that wonderful new car aroma.

It was a utilitarian car equipped with what I considered luxuries -- a radio and air conditioning, neither of which I'd had on previous clunkers.

It wasn't a roller-coaster thrill, but it was exciting to drive a new car.

But the excitement didn't last long. After about two weeks, I left my apartment one morning prepared to hop into my car and drive to work.

It wasn't where I'd left it.

I thought I was losing my senses. Had I been drunk the night before and forgotten where I'd parked? No, quite obviously it had been stolen.

The policeman who wrote out the report said jokingly, "Oh, it's just some guy taking it out for a joy ride."

Some joy ride! My car was joy-ridden, abandoned, discovered, towed to the city's impounding lot on Pulaski Highway and finally reclaimed by me. Damage for the joy ride: $1,500.

Three months later, disaster struck again.

During the night, someone hit my Nova and left without leaving a note. Then I was the victim of another hit-and-run driver. My insurance company raised my rates and forced me to take a higher deductible.

When I complained it was not my fault, the company said I had a "poor accident record."

In January, my doorbell rang, and a neighbor advised me that my car was on the sidewalk. This time the driver who hit me could not escape. His front bumper was hooked to my rear bumper. We were entwined, but he was not happy with this vehicular intimacy. Though my Nova was badly damaged, though it had been legally parked, though the accident was clearly his fault, he wailed about the damage to his car. A "phantom car," he said improbably, had pushed his car into mine and had sped away.

When the insurance adjuster came to look at the Nova, he uttered those words of condemnation: "Lady, your car is history . . . It's a total."

With 35,000 miles on it.

My nephew advised me to buy my car back at the salvage price, $800. He got it in riding condition, but it felt like driving a Mack truck. I considered taking it to several garages for estimates on a repair job.

Then I got hit again. This time a young man hit a car, which hit a second car, which hit mine. My insurance company wouldn't pay for the damages because the young man at fault was an "excluded driver."

My troubles continued. Last month, my sister drove me home from the hospital.

As we approached my apartment, she said, "Look, isn't that a man in your car?" I screamed at him. Nonchalantly, he got out of the car and ambled down the street.

This occurred in broad daylight.

The ignition was broken.

I had to have it towed to a garage for repairs.

I've decided I'll not buy another car so long as I live in Baltimore.

Ruth Fried lives in Northwest Baltimore.

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